I hope you’re enjoying The International Day of Happiness! There are lots of suggestions on the web page I just linked to for how you can celebrate and support it.
I’m celebrating it by doing something I find very beneficial for my happiness – being on a silent meditation retreat with Art of Meditation I left on Friday, and since that evening, I’ve not been allowed to speak, read a book, use a phone or a computer or even make eye contact with the other people on the retreat.
I wrote this blog just before I left, and set it up to send today. The wonders of modern technology!
A lot of people think a week of silence sounds crazy. Many can’t believe I would pay to do it. One friend suggested he could shut me in a cupboard for a week and I could give him the money. I didn’t fancy that!
This is my third time doing this particular retreat. Here are some of the reasons I keep going back:
The best conditions for meditation
If you’ve meditated before, you know what it’s like. Constant thoughts about things you need to do, things that have just happened, people who have annoyed you, people you’re worried you’ve annoyed… it can be hard to even experience a few moments of quiet in your mind.
On a retreat, it’s much easier for your mind to go quiet because all the distractions, things to do, choices and annoying people in your life have been taken away. This allows your mind to settle, which means that you experience a much great sense of calm, clarity and concentration than one would ever experience on a normal day, and it’s very pleasant!
Ramping up my concentration
Every day I train myself to concentrate during up to an hour of meditation as a formal practice, and during the rest of the day I try to focus on the present moment as much as possible. On this retreat I am doing five to six hours of formal practice every day, and by the end I can stay concentrated for about 95% of the time during a 40 minute meditation.
Facing all my difficult thoughts and emotions
Pascal said, “The source of all humanity’s problems is man’s inability to sit quietly, in a room, alone.” If he was right, then this is pretty important work I’m doing!
The most destructive things we do in our lives are to avoid feelings we don’t like. In a retreat like this, there’s no escape! It’s an opportunity to make peace with your inner world.
Burgs, who leads the retreat, is a very wise guy and he gives talks every day about the nature of the mind, emotions, and ethics. I learn new things every time that if I apply make me happier. He puts a lot of emphasis on simplifying your life and kindness, for example.
Also, having that much space allows me to reflect on what’s really important for me in life – what do I really want to do? What do I want to stop doing?! Who do I need to apologise to who I’ve upset? How is the way I’m living not in alignment with my values or what I really enjoy or find exciting?
A proper detox
After these retreats I feel my mind and body have been given a really deep clean out. I remember Burgs once saying “You wouldn’t go this long without giving your car a MOT!”
We catch up on sleep – lights out by 10pm to allow our minds and bodies to rest and recharge. We eat healthily and there’s no caffeine, sugar or alcohol on the retreat. There’s also no meat. We spend a whole week acting ethically, doing no harm to anyone, and doing a lot of good to ourselves.
What about you?
If you’ve never been on a retreat before, I really recommend it. Start with a weekend or one day, and build up. Some people go straight to a ten day silence, and I think that’s a bit much!
Also, silence is such a good thing for allowing our minds and bodies to calm down. Do you allow yourself any silence during the day? Could you have a silent breakfast with no reading either? Or go for a walk without putting your earphones in?
I look forward to sharing my insights with you when I’m back!